Claire shares her love of Susan Cooper’s fantasy sequence: The Dark is Rising with us.
I was in J3 (probably the equivalent of Year 4 in new money) when I was introduced to the most wonderful set of books that previously I had been ignorant of. My teacher mentioned to the class about a book that she thought we might be interested in discovering, especially those of us who had already eagerly consumed the works of C.S.Lewis and Tolkein. That weekend I dragged my mother to the local WHSmith and perused the shelves looking for the title she had said. Huge disappointment followed when it could not be found, but I did manage to find another book by the same author, so begrudgingly I decided that it would have to suffice.
The author was Susan Cooper and upon my return home with The Dark is Rising
, the second in the series of books of the same name, I was drawn into the story of Will Stanton and the discovery of his part to play in the unceasing battle between the Dark and the Light.
The story begins in the run up to Will’s 11th birthday, and the strange events that occur around him. He learns that as the seventh son of a seventh son, he is actually an Old One, a defendant of the Light and bestowed with magical powers to help him in his battle against the Dark. Will is also the last of the Old Ones to be born, and as such he is tasked with being The Seeker; his job is to find the Six Signs of the Light, which together become a weapon of power over the Dark.
The book follows his awakening and realisation of a battle that has been raging through history. It introduces other characters who assist him on quest, the main being Merriman Lyon, the first born of the Old Ones, who instructs Will in the way of the Light.
From the first page I read, I was engrossed in the tale and quickly managed to finish the book. I begged my parents for the rest of the series which followed, Greenwitch, The Grey King (another favourite), and the concluding book, Silver on the Tree. I was then able to complete the set by finding the first book in the series, which had originally eluded me in the bookshop, Over Sea Under Stone.
Susan Cooper wraps her story in Arthurian legend and sets the books in familiar locations including Cornwall and North Wales, and I have felt a fondness for these places ever since.
I have returned to these books frequently over the years, and have had to buy new copies as the originals disintegrated from over use. My own children have read the books but do not appear to have been so affected by them as I was. My love for fantasy fiction was created that day and for that I will always be grateful to Mrs Palmer.